Billy Thompson has tried vehemently to keep the entire supply chain of his T-shirt company located in the United States, but doing so is proving harder than he ever imagined.
Launched to the public in January 2012, his Thompson Tee apparel company makes T-shirts with a patent-pending technology that blocks underarm sweat and sells them to customers online through its website ThompsonTee.com.
Thompson says his business is sustainable and has been operating with a profit, but he's struggling to expand. He needs investors to step in to support the domestic manufacturing of his shirts, but he hasn’t been able to find them.
Investors have been reticent to support a company that makes all its clothes in the U.S., where labor costs are much higher than in most garment manufacturing hubs abroad, such as Bangladesh or Cambodia. In fact, Thompson has turned down investment offers that demanded he shift manufacturing operations overseas, he said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
“We don’t want to offshore production,” said Thompson. “We want everything to stay here. We’ve sacrificed a lot.”
Now Thompson is turning to the public for aid. On June 1, he's kicking off a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help expand the company’s operations in the U.S.
“At this point we're in pretty desperate need for growth capital,” said Thompson.
He's looking to raise at least $25,000 to cover materials and labor to launch a new “Classic Tee,” without the added underarm protection, and to introduce black shirts to his line of products. The company promises that for every 2,000 shirts made by Thompson Tee, one American job will be added to its supply chain.
Thompson admitted he could knock down labor costs by at least half if he began making clothes abroad, but he wants to keep the operation domestic.
“I totally believe that you can outsource production and you can do it in a fair and ethical way,” said Thompson. “For us, it’s a specific focus on supporting the U.S. economy.”
Thompson declined to share revenue numbers, but he claims Thompson Tee gets orders every single day from all over the U.S., and his company has sold shirts to more than 30 countries around the world. The product isn't available in physical stores yet, but Thompson said retailers like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Men’s Wearhouse have inquired about selling the shirts.